It’s tough to watch the NBA and not give the bulk of the credit to the players on the floor. After all, it’s these on-court warriors who put their bodies through the ringer and endure physical punishment night in and night out. Sure, basketball isn’t as brutal as football, but they don’t wear pads in the NBA, and the body goes through a lot of wear and tear over the course of an 82-game season (plus playoffs). Basketball players do, in fact, put a lot on the line in order to chase their championship dreams. However, it’s also important to give credit to the man behind the men: The head coach.
The coach is the guy pulling all the strings. He’s the one who sees the big picture, and does all he can to put the best pieces on the floor. He manages a player’s minutes, crafts the offensive and defensive schemes, and attempts to create a winning culture. The NBA is filled with a bunch of phenomenal individual parts, but without a stellar coach, that’s all they’d be: Individuals. To win, you need a team. To have a team, you need someone to put it all together. That’s the head coach. And sometimes, they don’t get the credit they deserve.
Let’s take a look at some of the most underrated head coaches in the NBA.
1. Kevin McHale – Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets are a very talented basketball team. James Harden and Dwight Howard are two of the best players in the NBA, and potentially the best at their respective positions. The Rockets are also deep, with eight players averaging double figures in scoring. So, with all the skill in Houston, how could McHale be considered underrated?
Well, as Erik Spoelstra proved over the past few years in Miami, it’s not easy taking individual stars, and trying to craft a cohesive unit. That’s what Kevin McHale is doing with the Rockets. They had a top 10 defensive rating, they were seventh in pace, and sixth in scoring. The Rockets also finished first in the Southwest Division, and third place in the very competitive Western Conference (all of this has occurred after losing small forward Chandler Parsons to the Dallas Mavericks). Yes, they have stars, but it takes a great coach to pull the right strings. So far, McHale is doing just that, and coached the team to the Western Conference Finals.
2. Tom Thibodeau – Unemployed
The Chicago Bulls had one of the best coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau. There should be no disputing this statement. And yet, for all he’s done, Thibodeau might not get enough credit. Every season it appeared that the Bulls were forced to overcome some other form of adversity. And every year, they manage to find a way to be competitive. It’s a hard-nosed group of players who pride themselves on playing tough defense and team basketball. This culture has been a part of the team’s makeup since Thibodeau took over coaching duties in the 2010-2011 season, and it remains to be seen what happens now that he’s out.
Derrick Rose was supposed to be back to his usual explosive self this season. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. The superstar has missed over 30 games this year, and will probably battle the results of his injuries for the reason of his career. Even with that, the Bulls finished 50-32, and sit atop the Central Division. Chalk it up to one last masterful job by Tom Thibodeau, now unemployed.
3. David Joerger – Memphis Grizzlies
So far in his two seasons as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, David Joerger has already won 105 games, and boasts a .640 winning percentage. This should not be surprising. The Grizzlies are a very physical team, with an underrated point guard (Mike Conley), a forceful interior presence, and all the pieces necessary to win an NBA title. However, without Joerger at the helm, this skilled Grizzlies team would probably not be as threatening to the rest of the league.
Under David Joerger’s tutelage, the Grizzlies have become one of the most complete teams in the NBA, with the ability to beat anyone in the NBA, and are a nightmare in a best-of-seven series. David Joerger is a major reason why Memphis could be the last team standing when it’s all said and done in 2016.